Since writing the last post on this blog, I’ve been training as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist.  The training is going well, but is very lengthy and there is still a while to go before I finish.  I’ve also bought and discarded another German car and switched to a Spanish car that seems to suit me much better, and I’ve moved house and our children have grown up and flown the nest mostly.  Not much has changed at all in relation to my family of origin, sadly.  Re-reading some of the posts, I am humbled that those of you who have chosen to comment have found something in them that chimes with your experience.  I’ve got some different ideas about things now, including my own struggles.  Part of me would like to take up writing here again, but part of me has difficulties with remaining anonymous (and not accountable for my views) and yet another part of me knows that my work as a psychotherapist is probably best served by my patients not knowing too much about me.  So for now, I just wanted to bring the blog up to date.  All is well, and I am glad if reading any of these posts has left you feeling less alone.



Messing around looking for something else, I came across this gem.  It makes me smile, gave me a new take on an old song.  I was left with the strong, distinct possibility that Jolene listened, that she stepped away.  Jolene’s voice is not heard in this song and we cannot know what she does.  Why do we assume that Jolene carried on regardless?  Why is this seen as the song of a woman who loses out.  I am quite sure that that there are male and femela Jolenes out there who would never ever step between a man and woman, however much power they had, because some things, however you look at them, are right and some things are wrong, and that matters more than anything else.


If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,but have not love, I gain nothing.



Our elder daughter will be singing this with her choir at speech day tomorrow.  The words of the song cut through me.  She’s been practising over the piano with her friend, and, later, singing it in harmony with her father to the sound of Bette Midler, and I thank God for her wonderful education, and for the joy she gets from her music making.

Today we learnt about another experiment, about conditioning, with dogs.  Let me read you this bit:

“In a famous experiment by Shenger-Krestovnika, published in 1921, a dog was trained to salivate to a circle but not to an ellipse. The ellipse was then made progressively more like a circle. When the ratio of the axes of the ellipse was reduced to 9:8, the dog could discriminate it from a circle only with great difficulty. It showed some signs of success on this problem for about three weeks, but then its behavior was disrupted. It was unable to respond correctly not only on this difficult task, but also when presented with obvious ellipses and circles that had given it no trouble in the earlier part of the experiment. What is more, instead of coming to stand quietly in the apparatus of the past, the animal now showed extreme excitement, struggling and howling” (Gray, 1979).

I started feeling really peculiar when the lecturer was talking about that experiment because I realised that it could easily be a person he was talking about, and that circles could be good people, and ellipses could be bad people.  Ellipses are squashed circles.  Circles have the potential to become ellipses and ellipses have the possibility of being restored to circles, but sometimes somebody that looks like a circle gradually starts to collapse, to become more like an ellipse until, one day, you really cannot tell whether they are actually a circle or an ellipse.  And then you feel mad inside because you don’t know how to behave towards them.  Because you can trust a good person, a circle.  You know they’ll show you respect, that they’ll be truthful to you, that they will do their utmost to be reliable, that they will show integrity with everything they do, that they’ll be kind, loving, patient, all those Biblical virtues.  And that if they are tired or fed up or stressed at some point and don’t have the energy to be those things, they will want to make up for it afterwards, to apologise.

What about ellipses?

They are all the things that circles are not: unreliable, untrustworthy.  They lie, dissemble, hide behind things.  They hurt you rather than deal with something difficult.  They ignore you.  They malign you.  They do not care how you feel because it is all about them.  They are the hollow people whose self is elsewhere and who do not really exist in an encounter.

Gosh.  Sounds awful.  So how can you tell the difference?

Well, most of the time it’s easy.  But just every now and again you meet someone who you think is a circle.  They may be able to very convincingly present themselves as a circle, and sustain that for quite a long time, but then, slowly, so slowly that you almost don’t notice, a nagging feeling flits in and out.  Perhaps this person is not a circle after all, but an ellipse in disguise.  I think it’s rare for it to be the other way round – an apparent ellipse actually being a perfect circle.  The devil can wear a saint’s clothes but it doesn’t happen the other way round.  A nightmare, especially for a child.  I’d like to read you this other bit.  It’s chilling.  It also goes on a bit, so bear with me …

“There is more to this story. Like Pavlov’s dogs, Gregory Bateson (1956) observed that a schizophrenic adult became that way because as a child, he could not discriminate whether his mother loves him or not! His theory of schizophrenia meshes in well with the ideas of Alice Miller. When kids ask their parents “Why am I being spanked,” the parent invariably responds “For Your Own Good,” which is the title of one of her books. It is a contradiction of terms and concepts! You don’t say to a child “I love you,” and then give the child a whack! It is entirely inconsistent! Any young kid can tell you that! Read an anecdote by Astrid Lindgren (1978) [follow the link] to get a feeling from the child’s point of view. What Bateson observed was that the child who grows up to be a schizophrenic is forever receiving two conflicting messages that put him into a double bind. The mother says to her child “I love you,” but when the child comes to hug, the mother pushes the child away, or stiffens in response to the hug. She really doesn’t love the child, but society says she should. So she pretends to love her child. But then the child senses the other message, and pulls away, and the mother then condemns the child with, “How come you don’t love me?” This cycle of responses is related to the biblical law “Thou shalt honor thy father and mother,” and if you don’t, well then you have to pretend, and the internal conflict makes you go crazy. It’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

Shit.  Horrible.  Beware False Circles.

Exactly.  Only thing is, you don’t know that you’ve met one until it’s too late.  They’re good, False Circles.  Had a lifetime of practice.  You won’t get them to change.  They’re ellipses for life because they’d rather be ellipses than go through the pain of transformation from ellipse to circle, even though they were born beautiful, perfect circles.  Sooner or later you’ll get the crazies when you’re with them, though, and then you know you’ve met one.  It’s not as if they have it branded on their forehead – quite the contrary.  But trust your gut rather than them.  Thing is, most of us don’t want to believe that someone we’ve seen as a circle is anything other than a circle, so ellipses get away with it for a long time, while we slowly get more and more crazy.  I think that’s partly about our ego, about not wanting to admit that we’ve made a mistake.  But I also honestly think it is about really not wanting to label someone as an ellipse.  It is such a hard thing to do, even if your sanity and happiness and health depend on it, because it feels as if it giving up on someone.  I never want to do that.  And that unwillingness works in favour of ellipses and enables them to carry on longer than is good for you.

Don’t they ever change?

No.  I don’t think they do.  No.  Sadly I don’t think they do.  They could, but they don’t.

Poor Elipses.

Well, perhaps.  Hopefully they may be other people’s circles.  That’s what I hope, anyway.  For their sake.  I hope it’s just the position from which I’m looking at things that makes me see them as elipses, and that if I was a different person, with a different perspective, I’d see them as a circle.

Always the optimist!

Nearly always …

Konrad Lorenz followed by his goslings who would become attached to him.  His seminal work on Aggression tells us that aggression is a survival instinct that makes young of the same species fight to the death for survival if resources are scarce.  However, mothering does not have to come only from a mother goose.  He discovered that when goose eggs were hatched in an incubator with no mother goose present, the goslings followed him rather than a mother goose.  He decided that he had become “imprinted” on them, leading them to become attached to him


A video clip of Monty Roberts doing a “join-up” with a wild horse.  I’ve seen him do this for real and it is astonishing to watch, and I’ve helped my daughter do it with her pony in a round pen too after she’d been away for a few weeks.


“Without heart, we would be mere machines”
I admit that I did not know, or bother to enquire, whether my car had runflat tyres fitted when I bought it.  It was rather an impulse buy, as a result of short fiasco with a completely unsuitable Mercedes SLK.  A moment of madness which ignored the needs of my daughters and my dog.  I needed to ditch the SLK pronto without forking out any extra dosh.  Like the Prodigal Daughter returning to the fold of the BMW dealership, I begged to be rescued from my brief affair with another marque.  I would almost have taken anything.  As it happened they had “just the thing”.  A BMW 320d M Sport.  Black leather, Business package with Bluetooth and in superb condition.  But someone else wanted it so I would have to make up my mind then and there.
I’d enjoyed several happy years up until then with a beautiful silver BMW 3-litre M sport touring, so I thought it would be fine, even if I was trading down in power.  I had half a mind to the environment, to the cheaper diesel costs.  But mostly I just wanted shot of the flash Merc that tipped water down my neck as its final gesture of disgust when I handed it over early one morning.
To give it its due, the 320d is sweet on motorways.  It eats up the miles without you noticing its appetite.  It responds with lots of acceleration even in fifth gear (it has six).  It does everything I need it to do and is comfortable for my human and canine passengers.  It looks pretty good, and I can even speak on the phone legally whilst cruising along.
But it weighs a tonne, and, in the trade off between assisting the steering and giving feedback to the driver, BMW seem to have adopted for the latter.  Checking through the list of 3-series models, BMW introduced Electric power steering to all other models with larger engines, and 320ds with an automatic shift have hydraulic assisted steering.  This is speed sensitive, reducing the load when manouevring at slow speeds, but retaining control at higher speeds.  I cannot find any confirmation that the 320d has steering assist, and neither can the nice lady from BMW customer service.  Go figure … (weird expression, but I think it covers the ground here).
I got the head honcho of the service department to test drive my car after his minions found nothing wrong.  He agreed that it was tramlining badly and pulling to the left, and that he was having to fight it as a result by pulling back to the right (it’s my right shoulder that is injured).  He suggested two new tyres in the short term, expensive realignment (two hours of workshop time at £112.00 ph) in the medium term, and a different car in the long term.
So, faced with an uneven wear pattern, and the guilt of knowing that I did not check my tyre pressure once a month, I shelled out for two new front tyres.  I was told that the back tyres would not make much difference, and, anyway, one had been replaced after the puncture about three months ago.
The tramlining has improved, and the car no longer pulls to the left.  Some improvement. But then I went and sat in an Audi A4.  And I wanted to cry.  I could turn the wheel when stationary with little more than one finger and it was a joy.
I test drove an Alfa Romeo Giulietta yesterday, in the hope of avoiding the Audi.  It’s only been out since July 2010 and looks best in … (wince) white.  Theadvertising video is a seductive blend of style and perfomance, and the reviews, especially of the 1.4l petrol Multair engine with performance to match my BMW, looked promising.  I hadn’t bargained on the DNA …
Two cars in one.  A flick of a switch changes it from town runabout (N = normal mode) to aggressive tiger (D = dynamic mode).  My husband’s grandfather always used to caution against a piece of machinery that tried to do two things, and usually did neither very well.  The Guilietta is a case in point.  In normal mode it is boring and too expensive.  In dynamic mode it is quite scary and far too exhausting.  Like the manic friend who is fun to be around a couple of times a year but leaves you needing to sleep for a week.  I asked the salesman when typical drivers flicked the switch.  He said that most tended not to, leaving it in normal mode most of the time and reserving dynamic mode for high days and holidays.  In addition, the operation of dynamic mode not only increases the power to the engine and changes the road holding, but also firms up the steering to reward the racy driver with that all important “feel”.  In dynamic mode the steering is heavy, and I found I wanted to change back to normal mode as soon as I hit any congestion or town driving.
Other niggles – such as Alfa having forgotten to include a footrest on the righthand drive version (duh!), intrusive road noise and my longstanding dislike of the off-centre positioning of the number plate – meant that the Alfa definitely won’t be gracing our driveway any time soon.  Even the lure of the safety of the third (A = “active”) snow and ice mode lurking in that DNA switch couldn’t tempt me …
There’s always a trade off between security and freedom, but the Alfa hedges its bets and doesn’t get the balance right.  The N needs to be less “normal” to make it more fun because the Dynamic was too much for me most days.  Perhaps I’m just too old and the wrong gender and no Giulietta.

“Without heart, we would be mere machines”


I have a car with lots of grunt.  Fat, wide low profile tyres.  Impressive engine.  Low slung suspension.  And heavy steering that leaves me in no doubt of the weight of the metal that I am dragging around the tarmac.

I developed a rotary cuff shoulder injury about four months ago, coupled with lateral epicondylitis or tennis elbow.  Expensive weeks of physiotherapy and deep massages and anti-inflammatory drugs, along with a depressing inability to do almost anything, have helped to heal me, but it is my car, more than anything, that aggravates the injury and may even have contributed to it in the first place.

BMW have introduced run flat tyres to all their new models of car (save for the M series).  The run flat tyres cost more than ordinary tyres, do not last as long, produce a harder ride, and are much more sensitive to any small drop in pressure.  The horrible truth is that you may have allowed all your tyres to drop in pressure as seasons change, but you will not notice any difference as the tyre wall will not begin to bulge and collapse as it would on a conventional tyre.  There is no “give” in the side wall, so this is a theoretical impossibility.  Instead, what will happen is that the base of the tyre, so essential for road holding, will become concave, lifting up in the centre.  Only the outside edges of the tyre will be in contact with the road.  Eventually this will become obvious as the tyre wears at the edges but not in the centre.



Run-flats have two main advantages.  Safety (in the effect of a puncture) and weight (no need for a spare).  In the event of a puncture, you can generally continue driving to your destination at a moderate speed (no more than 50mph) without damaging the vehicle or its wheels.
See this video of a Mini with holes drilled in its runflats:
Disadvantages of the tyres are as follows:
(a) that they produce a harder ride, less forgiving of potholes (but your car’s suspension may have been set up to allow for this)
(b) that they cost more to replace
(c) that they need replacing more often, and it may well cause problems if one tyre is replaced and not others
(d) that you cannot check visually whether tyre pressure is down
(e) that the car’s mechanism for checking loss of pressure is activiated by a loss of pressure in one tyre, not all tyres, so is useful for detecting a puncture, but not more general loss of pressure throughout all tyres
(f) complaints of expensive alloy wheels cracking as they absorb the strain – and not when the runflats are being runflat either
I was told that the decision to put runflats on all BMWs was driven by the American market.
Blow-outs are very rare.  It is far more common for a tyre to be punctured and lose pressure slowly.  The first recourse is to re-inflate the tyre and see what happens.  The second port of call is the AA or the RAC. There is no possibility that I could change a tyre on my car, even if it were not fitted with runflats …
It would be rare for a British driver not to have membership of our “Fourth Emergency Service”  (my membership is a “free” additional benefit of my bank account) and my experience of the assistance of road-side recovery services is that they arrive quickly, change the tyre efficiently, and charge you nothing for their time.  It would be rare to have to wait longer than one hour, given the coverage these organisations have of our small country, and that most of us spent most of our time driving not far from centres of population.  Most of our cars nowadays are fitted with lightweight temporary spare wheels, technically illegal, but safe enough to get us to one of the many tyre dealers.  No need for a BMW dealership and no need for the pressure detection system to be re-initialised.
There is always a trade off between security and freedom, and BMW have not got it right with the run flat set up on the 320d.

“I had a weak father, domineering mother, contemptuous teachers, sadistic sergeants, destructive male friendships, esmasculating girlfriends, a wonderful wife, and three terrific children.  Where did I go right?”

Jules Feiffer, cartoonist and writer (and below)

The lessons of attachment help us heal adult relationships

The powerful, life-altering lessons we learn from our attachment bond—our first love relationship—continue to teach us as adults. The gut-level knowledge we gained then guides us in improving our adult relationships and making them secure.

Lesson No. 1—adult relationships depend for their success on nonverbal forms of communication. Newborn infants cannot talk, reason or plan, yet they are equipped to make sure their needs are met. Infants don’t know what they need, they feel what they need, and communicate accordingly. When an infant communicates with a caretaker who understands and meets their physical and emotional needs, something wonderful occurs.

Relationships in which the parties are tuned in to each other’s emotions are called attuned relationships, and attuned relationships teach us that:

  • nonverbal cues deeply impact our love relationships
  • play helps us smooth over the rough spots in love relationships
  • conflicts can build trust if we approach them without fear or a need to punish

When we can recognize knee-jerk memories, expectations, attitudes, assumptions and behaviors as problems resulting from insecure attachment bonds, we can end their influence on our adult relationships. That recognition allows us to reconstruct the healthy nonverbal communication skills that produce an attuned attachment and successful relationships.

Attachment Style Parental Style Resulting Adult Characteristics
Secure Aligned with the child; in tune with the child’s emotions Able to create meaningful relationships; empathetic; able to set appropriate boundaries
Avoidant Unavailable or rejecting Avoids closeness or emotional connection; distant; critical; rigid; intolerant
Ambivalent Inconsistent and sometimes intrusive parent communication Anxious and insecure; controlling; blaming; erratic; unpredictable; sometimes charming
Disorganized Ignored or didn’t see child’s needs; parental behavior was frightening/traumatizing Chaotic; insensitive; explosive; abusive; untrusting even while craving security
Reactive Extremely unattached or malfunctioning Cannot establish positive relationships; often misdiagnosed


All from: